Cases of swimmer’s itch — a condition caused by parasites in the water — are suspected at the Hay River Territorial Park beach.

Cases of a condition commonly called swimmer’s itch are suspected at the Hay River Territorial Park beach. However, as of late last week, the Department of Health and Social Services reported there was no confirmed case in the community.
Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

On July 31, NWT Parks issued an advisory about the situation.

“Please be advised that parasites causing the condition commonly known as swimmer’s itch have been reported at the Hay River Territorial Park beach,” it stated. “The condition results from contact with a water parasite that causes localized skin irritation. Itching typically begins 10-30 minutes after exposure and can last a few days to a week.”

However, Damien Healy, the manager of communications with the Department of Health and Social Services, said there are only suspected cases of swimmer’s itch.

“There are no confirmed cases of swimmer’s itch in the town of Hay River,” Healy told The Hub on July 31. “The advisory is precautionary in nature. They just wanted people to know the symptoms if cases do arise.”

While there may be suspected cases, the department only deals with confirmed cases, he added. “And we don’t have any confirmed cases.”

There is a factsheet on the website of the Department of Health and Social Services describing what swimmer’s itch — officially called schistosome cercarial dermatitis — looks like and what people can do if they suspect they have it.

NWT Parks offered several suggestions on how to avoid contracting swimmer’s itch:

  • Avoid spending extended periods of time in the water.
  • Wash off and briskly rub the skin with a cloth immediately after leaving the water. Dry off, and do not leave drops of water on skin.
  • Avoid swimming where swimmer’s itch is a problem.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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